This is a hard one to write about but it is something that we really want to address to parents but we know that many would probably disagree with our stance. It’s become apparent to us that children are allowed access to apps such as Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram at very young ages. We do notice the many positive aspects of maintaining a social media account but we also understand that there are some dangers that should be addressed as well.
We’ll focus this post on the various reasons we believe you should NOT allow your preteen child to have a Facebook account.
It’s Against The Rules
Our first point to make is that the various social media giants have rules in place on who can and cannot create accounts. Facebook points this out in their Terms of Service in the Registration and Account Security section. When you are creating an account you are agreeing to these terms. I know that we all read the Terms of Service agreements before signing up for something…right?
The fact is that we should all tell the truth in a civilized society. We can’t just establish that certain types of lies are okay while others are not. Lying about your age on Facebook or Twitter may seem inconsequential, but this can snowball into larger lies that have far more negative effects in their future. So, let’s just agree that lying is bad and telling the truth is good.
The rules aren’t to try to stifle a child’s ability to express themselves or socialize online. The verbiage in the Terms of Service for Facebook and other social media sites is their effort in adhering to the regulations set forth in the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (or COPPA for short) that essentially restricts a companies from collecting any data on children. This is extremely easy to circumvent though, as any child can lie about their age when signing up for the site. There is no effort by these companies to actually verify the age of each person signing up for their service and parents should be aware of the reasoning behind these rules.
Cyberbullying and Online Harassment
Harassment and bullying aren’t just things that children experience at school. Many times these types of adverse interactions follow kids home in the digital realm. There really isn’t much of a difference between the two terms and are use interchangeably to describe any act of harassing another person online. The term “cyberbullying” is mainly used to describe the harassment between two minors.
You don’t have to search long on your own feed to find some examples of harassment online. You might see others engaged in a flame war where insults are shot back and forth, fake accounts created in order to pretend to be another person, threatening/intimidating message, or sharing pictures/videos in an effort to embarrass their target. All of these are forms of cyberbullying and online harassment.
Victims of cyberbullying often do not confide in their parents out of embarrassment. These forms of harassment have left many children anxious and depressed. In rare cases, suicide or attempted suicide was the result of repeated attacks from others online.
Your child must understand this aspect of social media and know how to deal with it if they ever are witness to someone being harassed or find themselves the target. Talk frequently about the different types of harassment that we mention above. Have kids understand what boundaries are in a friendship or dating relationship and that no one needs access to their Facebook accounts. Go over different ways to report abuse online.
Children Just Aren’t Mentally Ready For Social Media
I’ll also point out that many adults aren’t either. However, preteen children lack the cognitive ability to deal with the various flood of opinions, sales tactics, sexual ads, and various forms of harassment that they likely see on Facebook.
A lot of cognitive development is still taking place inside their heads in the preteen years (and for many years after). They become less impulsive (not a blanket statement) and can identify some of the dangers easier as they get older.
Facebook Is For Old People 🙂
Believe it or not, your kid probably isn’t too interested in Facebook with the advent of Snapchat and Instagram are two of the well known apps that teens prefer over Facebook. According to Statista, Snapchat surpasses Facebook as the most popular social media and sharing app for teens.
Our advice to parents is to research what apps your teens are using, or what apps they are interested in using. Verify the safety of the app yourself and do some research on some of the hazards and ways to protect your child against them.
Blocking all social media apps isn’t really the way to go. Your child will most likely try to sneak around these rules and potentially create hidden accounts…you don’t want that to happen. Have conversations with them about why they should wait to create an account and talk to their friends’ parents to see if you can recruit them to have the same conversations. The peer pressure excuse won’t be available if their close friends have the same rules in place.